While the long-term implications of remote work are yet to be seen, over the past year it appears that working remotely has impacted each generation quite differently, according to ADP Canada’s most recent Workplace Insight Survey.
The survey, conducted by Angus Reid on behalf of ADP Canada, stressed the importance of understanding how the employee experience may differ depending on age, among many other factors, and the need for employers to adapt expectations accordingly.
Gen Z differs from other generations on hours worked and returning to the office – but all agree on stress levels
Many Canadian remote workers (44%) reported working longer hours compared to pre-pandemic times, but Gen Z remote workers (under 25 years old) have been the least likely of all generations to clock extra hours (31%). Millennial remote workers (those aged 26 to 40), on the other hand, were the most likely to report an increase in the hours of work, with nearly half (48%) reporting they are putting in more hours compared to pre-pandemic times.
When it comes to the prospect of returning to the office, the survey revealed that Gen Z remote workers are the most excited (36%) to return to the physical office, followed closely by Millennial remote workers (34%). This excitement seemed to taper off with age, with only 29 per cent of Gen X (aged 41 to 55) and 26 per cent of Baby Boomers (aged 56+) looking forward to returning to the office. Gen Z workers were also more likely (34%) to note incentives offered by employers, which could be further motivating them to return to the workplace. These include transit subsidies, a flexible schedule, free parking, and additional compensation – all of which Gen Z workers were significantly more likely to say are being offered by their organization, when compared to respondents from other generations.
One area that all generations seemed to agree upon was stress, with around four-in-ten of respondents across all age groups noting an increase in stress levels as a result of the pandemic.
“This data clearly demonstrates each generation experiences remote work differently. While stress is a common thread, younger employees show more interest in returning to the office, suggesting that they likely value face-to-face interaction and may even believe working remotely may hinder their career development, while others, in more established roles, may be thriving with remote work”, said Megha Makam, Senior Human Resources Business Advisor at ADP Canada. “It’s important to identify these generational differences and open the conversation with each employee’s experience when developing supportive programs or initiatives.”
Employee support: from flexible schedules to mental health and wellness initiatives
To support remote workers across age groups, many Canadian organizations have introduced new initiatives throughout the pandemic.
Modified schedules appear to be one of the most commonly introduced support methods across generations. When it came to fulfilling personal responsibilities during work hours, Baby Boomer remote workers were the most likely (75%) to say their employers let them work a modified schedule whenever they need to take care of personal matters, followed closely by 72 per cent of Gen X and Millennial remote workers.
Mental health and wellness support was also commonly noted among Millennials and Gen X remote workers, with nearly half (48%) of both generations saying their employers have introduced initiatives in this area during COVID-19. Gen Z remote workers, however, did not share this sentiment, with 65 per cent reporting their workplace did not introduce such initiatives during the pandemic or they were not aware of them if they did.
“So much has changed in the past year – including the way we work and the way we interact with each other,” added Makam. “The survey findings support a call to action for employers to adjust how we communicate with and support each generation of the workforce. A blanket approach simply does not work when it comes to navigating remote work.”
The generations also differed markedly when it came to how they viewed productivity and quality of work. Key findings include:
- Gen X and Baby Boomer remote workers were the most likely to report their productivity increased, with nearly half (46% and 47% respectively) noting a bump in productivity since working remotely.
- Four-in-ten (42%) of Millennial respondents also indicated an increase in the quality of their work, compared to Gen Z workers, who were the least likely to report an increase in quality of work (31%).
This online survey of 566 working Canadians working remotely, including those working full and part time, was completed between April 14th and April 15th, 2021, among members of the Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes, a probability sample of this size has an estimated margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.